TOKYO – While speaking of unclaimed rewards, a bond that was like father-son, and an enduring trust in the potential of a badass kid, Elmer Pamisa made it clear that Carlo Paalam is not a recycled sports hero.
“Even when he was still young, I saw his bravery, his intelligence when he was fighting in the ring,” said the boxing coach in Filipino on Sunday during a Zoom conference. “He said he would be our first ever gold medal winner at the Olympics.”
Not quite, but so close.
Paalam took the men’s boxing flyweight silver on Saturday, and while on the podium, he stared at his medal, finding a shared identity with his award.
“May symbol kasi sya sa buhay ko,” Paalam said as he choked as tears welled up in his eyes. “Galing po ako sa scavengers po, nangalakal. Parang can symbol sya sa buhay ko. Kasi galing sya sa sira na mga gadget po.Sa trash sya galing. Trash sya galing … parang can connect sya sa buhay ko “.
(“It symbolizes my life. I come from scavengers, selling garbage scraps. [This medal] it symbolizes my life because it was built from broken appliances. [This medal] it came from the garbage. It came from the garbage … and it has a connection with my life ”). The medals awarded to those who finished on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics are recycled from old gadgets like laptops and smartphones.
But for Pamisa, it was not a discarded talent that she found searching for reusable garbage in a landfill in Upper Dagong, Barangay Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City. The tough guy was a winner the moment he fought his first fight, at a neighbor’s house, over a bottle of Coke.
“It was really good,” Pamisa said.
And later found out how good it was. Pamisa, with the help of the then governor of Misamis Oriental. Oscar Moreno, now mayor of Cagayan de Oro, entered Paalam in regional competitions where the young slugger was almost always victorious.
In fact, Paalam played a central role in the boxing rivalry between Panabo City, Davao del Norte and Cagayan de Oro.
“They would offer a P15,000 reward for any of their fighters who could beat Carlo,” Pamisa said.
But even Pamisa had no idea of the roof of Paalam.
“I never thought I would make it to the Olympics,” he said.
But Paalam was called up for Tokyo because of his world ranking, and there was only one person he made sure to join him on his Olympic journey.
“I spoke to our boxing officials and promised to win a medal if Coach Pam could come with me to Tokyo,” Paalam said before getting excited. Pamisa, Paalam said in a broken voice, was like a father to him. “I love him so much.”
After the final flyweight match, where Paalam lost largely due to a crucial first-round knockdown against Britain’s Galal Yafai, the 23-year-old Filipino hugged Pamisa so tightly that the coach felt one with his pupil in that moment.
“It was also an honor for me that he got a medal,” said Pamisa.
And Paalam will seek that gold again in Paris 2024, saying the windfall he will receive for his feat here will not soften his resolve.
And Pamisa knows how deadly a determined Paalam can be.
“Until now, no one has claimed that reward of P15,000,” said Pamisa.
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